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Bloody Warriors: Shango no Gyakushuu (NES) artwork

Bloody Warriors: Shango no Gyakushuu (NES) review

"Bloody Warriors is best described as an RPG for RPG junkies. It's not good enough to inspire players to delve into the genre, but diehard fans like me are able to gain some enjoyment from taking another trip down a well-worn path."

Considering the vast popularity the Dragon Quest series has possessed in Japan since its inception, it's no surprise that lots of companies hitched their carts to the RPG wagon in an attempt to make the "next" Dragon Quest. When one considers the overall shoddy track record Nintendo of America had in bringing these games over to the good ol' U.S. of A., it's also not a surprise that many of these clones never reached our soil.

For a diehard JRPG fanatic such as myself, this obviously was not a good development. No matter how much I enjoyed Final Fantasy and Dragon Warrior IV, there's only so much time I could spend with them before they started to feel old and stale. However, this creates a mindset where I begin to believe that every single game I missed out on in my youth was probably a wonderful experience that I would have loved if those evil corporate executives hadn’t kept them out of reach.

The (obvious) truth is that the games we didn't get were much the same as those we did: some were great, some were horrible and others delivered a big dose of mediocrity -- which is the perfect way to segue into this review of Toei's Bloody Warriors. In some ways, this 1990 release improves on Dragon Quest (which should be expected, since it arrived four years after that classic game), but all too often it instead feels like a sadly primitive relic from a bygone era.

The game’s premise is what drew me in, because it reminded me of some campy lesser-tier barbarian film from the 80s. There's an evil warlord looking to gain enough power to take over the world and it's your duty to stop him. However, instead of playing the part of some precocious teen, as is the case in so many of these games, you're a bit older. The game opens with you needing to venture to a nearby cave to complete some trial to become a village chief, which is followed by another trial that you can complete to acquire some powerful weaponry. In a neat twist, this equipment is pretty much the best stuff your main character will obtain throughout the game -- and you're only about 10 percent of the way through it by that point!

The other 90 percent of the adventure mainly involves you collecting warriors to flesh out your party -- both for exploration and for "strategy" battles. Bloody Warriors attempts to add turn-based strategy fights to the typical random RPG battles you'd expect to see. There are two problems with this, though. First, those fights are painfully simplistic. You collect a few units by talking to random townspeople, buy a few more (ranging from standard infantry up to powerful catapults) and then overwhelm your foes in short fights. If you lose any members of your group, all that you'll have to do is grind a bit to acquire the cash that you can spend to hire enough troops that you again have your maximum eight units. That this is a pretty short game by RPG standards didn't bother me. The fact that I spent the bulk of my time grinding for money to buy catapults, on the other hand, bothered me quite a bit.

More bothersome, though, was just how tedious so many aspects of this game were. I can't completely condemn Toei for issues like the inability to determine how weapons and armor alter a character's stats until after they are equipped, since so many games of this era were like that, but that certainly didn't add to my enjoyment. However, that paled before more grievous offenses. Every time you obtain a new party member, he starts at level one and brings along no equipment, which forces you to backtrack to fight weaker opponents until your new addition can handle whatever opposition you're supposed to currently be facing. Of course, the guys you pick up late in the game will wind up being better than those early party members, so this seems like a way to artificially increase the length of a short adventure, rather than a feature that adds anything positive to the experience.

Along similar lines, it’s worth spending more time examining those strategy battles. Fairly late in the game, you'll go through an area where you have to fight a series of them to take over several enemy fortresses. I entered the first battle with eight basic infantry units and won without taking any casualties. Surprisingly, this was bad. When it came time for the second one, I had eight weakened units taking on five full-strength units, one of which was more powerful than infantry. Since I had the maximum number of units, I could buy no more. I also couldn't combine depleted units to make a stronger one, so my fate was to watch my guys quickly get decimated. The only way for me to win the fight was to lose a few units, choose the "surrender" option, get a "you are dead" message and get sent to the last town, where I could then buy powerful new ones to replace the deceased. It took a LONG time to get through that little string of battles, which was annoying.

Playing Bloody Warriors wasn't all misery and sadness, though. While there only might have been a dozen or so different kinds of monsters to encounter in random battles, their sprites look pretty damn good. I doubt that bats, snakes and frogs have ever been portrayed so large and with such detail in any other 8-bit RPG. And although you might have to grind for money, you never really have to do so in order to gain levels except at the very beginning of the game. That’s a nice change of pace from the usual old-school RPG. There also is the "modern-game" inclusion of the ability to save whenever and wherever you want. After getting a little ways into the game, you can then buy motorcycles (just a BIT out of place for the barbarian vibe of this one) for your characters to greatly increase your walking speed in the overworld. This can be really handy, especially when playing a game that, if it'd been released in America, would have surely deserved a spot on my Nintendo Power Hall of Fame.

That is a status I give to those games from my youth that I might not have beaten without help from strategy portions in the magazines that often gave answers to those puzzles where the solution either completely defies logic and/or some necessary information was left out or mistranslated when the game was ported to America. With Bloody Warriors, the guy who did the online guide I found myself using hadn't even figured out the purpose of one guy you’ll meet at the end of an early-game cave…but he was still better off than I was! At one point, an obviously evil ruler asks you to collect a handful of gems for him. You already have one of the four, so this shouldn't be too hard, right? Wrong. None of the others appear until you've rescued a pair of prisoners from a distant dungeon and they tell you where to find them. The locations where you must find these gems include a small cave that is completely empty until you've found those prisoners…and a secret room in the dungeon where they were held captive that isn't even revealed until they’ve been rescued. Without help, I'm guessing it'd take a lot of backtracking and re-exploring old places before I'd have figured that one out! That's not fun…

Bloody Warriors is best described as an RPG for RPG junkies. It's not good enough to inspire players to delve into the genre, but diehard fans like me are able to gain some enjoyment from taking another trip down a well-worn path. I don't think I can put enough emphasis on how nice it is that you have the ability to save the game at any time, which can often improve a poor-to-mediocre game. Things run so much more smoothly when you're not risking an hour of work whenever you want to venture a fair distance from the nearest town. While many other aspects of this game might not have worked out particularly well, a feature like that at least prevented the experience from ever becoming obnoxiously annoying.


overdrive's avatar
Staff review by Rob Hamilton (March 16, 2013)

Rob Hamilton is the official drunken master of review writing for Honestgamers.

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